I often talk about you and how you gave me a publishing and film career. And I credit your work being my inspiration. And all of it is true. But in some ways this blog could have just as easily been called Letters to Maurice. As his impact has been just as big.
Fifteen years ago I was an aspiring writer and wannabe screenwriter and filmmaker. And for my film I wanted the one and only Maurice Benard to star in it. For those of you living under a rock, or perhaps don’t know, Maurice Benard stars in General Hospital as Sonny Corinthos and in the forthcoming film The Ghost and the Whale. He also happens to have bipolar disorder and is a tireless advocate for those suffering with the illness in hopes that they (we) will seek out help.
At the time I suspected that I had it. But you know Maurice and his lovely wife Paula had the guts and the courage to talk about their journey when it wasn’t in the mainstream or very trendy to talk about. Although, that being said, mental illness isn’t trendy, it’s something that is still, to some degree talked about in whispers and shadows. The only place where I see it being used as ‘trendy’ is when the media outlets mislabel a misogynistic a-hole who shoots up a college campus.
Maurice had the courage to fight for the storyline on General Hospital. The courage to be open with his struggles. And honestly it gave me the courage to seek help sooner rather than later. His courage gave me the courage to keep going back to the doctor when there was a misdiagnosis in order to get the right diagnosis.
To keep taking the meds even when things weren’t perfect. He gave me hope that one day I would be well and that success in the creative industry was possible for someone like me the night he accepted his Soap Opera Digest Award for Favorite Lead Actor and said ‘for anyone out there with bipolar disorder if I can do it so can you’.
I remember crying that night. Not because I was sad, but because it struck at the very heart of me. I hadn’t written anything in months and I didn’t know if I would ever write anything again as I struggled to get to a stable place where I could do my best work. But those words, his words re-lit the candle of hope that had seemingly been snuffed out.
Recently I read his account of the audience’s reaction to his speech. That there had been some laughter in the crowd at his words. It angered me. That was his moment to shine up there. He had overcome so much and yet they would laugh in the face of it. I didn’t understand it then and I certainly don’t understand it now.
If that speech were given today it would be met with applause, not laughter. But fourteen years ago people were barely talking about mental illness. His work as advocate has saved many lives, including mine. So, even though I can’t afford to fly out to LA and see The Ghost and the Whale, his film about a man struggling with bipolar disorder, I support it one and ten percent from KY. And today he tweeted I deserved the success this blog/book/ and documentary was bringing me. Well he certainly deserves all of the joy, success, and stability he has fought so hard for.
I used to not understand what he meant by his words he couldn’t do it without his wife Paula. And while Missy and I are not a romantic pair I understand perfectly what he means by that now.